Paul Weeks is a freelance photographer and aspiring writer from Seattle, Washington. When not busy with his day job as an aerospace engineer or working on personal and professional photography projects, Paul spends his time exploring the outdoors, traveling, writing, running, and attempting to learn new things.

You can find more of his work and words by checking out his on 500px, visiting his website, or giving him a follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The beauty of photography is that anything can happen. I’ve been on photo trips where nothing seems to go right, and it’s surprising that more aren’t like that because so many different things can (and often do) go wrong; gear fails, the weather sucks, cars break down, batteries die, you get lost, etc.

There are so many things standing between home and a great photo. It’s mind-blowing. That’s why I’m constantly amazed at the new material put out by fellow photographers that I’ve come to admire. Getting the shot, let alone THE shot, is a nearly impossible task.


Most successful creative achievements I see leave me wondering how many near-misses came first. It’s easy to look at successful people in any field and assume that they got where they are based on natural talent, or some sort of X factor. It would seem that they were “just born with it”. Whatever “it” is – an unfair advantage, no doubt. The thing that most fail to realize is that the most successful people have also had the most failures.

This is especially true in photography. The difference is that the photographer with a growth mindset goes back out the next day, better BECAUSE of his or her failures, while the mediocre photographer finally gives up and stays at home.

Photography has taught me a lot about patience. It’s the name of the game, really. Many successful photographers that I’ve met are also some of the most even-keeled people I know. You almost have to be. There are outliers for sure, but being able to hold your composure and switch effortlessly to “Plan B” is an essential part of what we do. We must keep moving forward at all times.

Don’t get me wrong — planning is an essential skill for any photographer to have. But, there’s only so much preparation one can do before the diminishing returns of anxiety set in.

In my experience, anxiety kills creativity. When in a state of high anxiety I find that my thoughts are consumed with fears of repeating past failures. I’ve also noticed that when operating in this stressful state, my flow of thought comes to a grinding halt. This is detrimental to the creative process and instantly clouds creative vision. Preparing to the extent that our expectations are set in stone will only make the path forward more difficult. Part of preparation is being ready to adapt to any situation and prepared to fail before you even begin.

The upshot of it all is that every once in a while we get really lucky. A sunrise sent from heaven, a perfect bank of wispy fog, or a forgotten camera battery in the bottom of the bag… sometimes things just work out. The stars (sometimes quite literally) will align on occasion. These are the sweet moments that make everything OK. Sometimes we need this luck, because hey, it’s been a while and we’ve earned it. After getting up early and heading back out day after day, we deserve it.

It can be easy to forget that sometimes things go right. It’s in our nature to have a short memory when it comes to positive experiences, while holding negative thoughts tight, never letting them go. There is a way to win this battle though. Constantly cherish the good things, the lucky moments. Practice embracing the negatives, learn from them, and quickly move on. Prepare to go back out the next time a little smarter, a little more mentally flexible. If you can adopt this growth mindset and apply it to photography or any aspect of life, anything is possible.

Improvement comes from having the will to absorb failures and keep attacking new opportunities with an open mind. And we will improve. Because tomorrow the growth mindset photographer will be back out there, a little better than yesterday, and hoping to get a little luckier than today.